Minnesota United veteran defender Michael Boxall played 1,710 consecutive minutes in every regular-season game this year until Wednesday's 2-2 draw with Chicago Fire FC, when he didn't play as either starter or substitute.
He banged his knee when he ran into the goalpost unsuccessfully trying to prevent a goal the week before against Colorado but finished the game. Loons coach Adrian Heath rested Boxall for Wednesday's game because of that knee in a densely condensed season with Sunday's season finale against FC Dallas and the playoffs looming.
When Boxall was flat on his back and hurting last week, one teammate didn't believe what he saw.
"He's a machine," fellow center-back Brent Kallman said after that game. "I mean, the guy never gets hurt. I was seeing him holding his leg there and for a second, I was like, 'What? This isn't supposed to happen. This can't happen.' "
At 32, Boxall has been the Loons' rock — so consistent and underrated — in a condensed season in which games have been postponed and canceled because of coronavirus outbreaks. Signed by the club midway through its inaugural 2017 season, Boxall has never been better.
"Ever since he got to the club, he has continually gotten better," Kallman said. "Month after month after month, and it's just showing this year. He's in great form. He's super-well-rounded. He gives the team a ton, and his availability is massive. He's available to play in this tight schedule. We play games midweek, weekend, midweek and he's healthy to go. Not everyone can do that.
"It's a special gift he has. He's so massive for the group."
Sam Gleadle trained with his new teammates on Friday for the first time since he was one of three players signed from the USL Championship's Reno 1868 FC team.
His two Reno teammates who also signed with the Loons — forward Foster Langsdorf and midfielder Kevin Partida — remain quarantined and training on their own.
Loons coach Adrian Heath said all three might provide depth in a playoff run.
"The quarantine was long and with this weird season, it took a while, but it's good to get around the guys," said Gleadle, a 24-year-old Englishman who played collegiately at New Mexico and played two seasons in Reno. "I've seen them 'round and about the facility and now I get to train with them. I'm just full of excitement whether I'm involved or not. It will be good to get the experience and learn from them."
Playoff dates set
MLS on Friday announced its playoff schedule that starts with two Eastern Conference play-in games on Friday, Nov. 20, and ends with its MLS Cup championship match on Dec. 12.
Minnesota United will play either Nov. 21, 22 or 24 in a first-round game, at home if the Loons beat FC Dallas at home on Sunday and move from fifth place to fourth in the Western Conference.
Two games will be played on Nov. 21, three will be played on each of the next two dates. All 17 games in an expanded postseason will be played within 22 days after the November FIFA international window ends. Fourteen playoff games will be played over 13 days.
All games will be televised nationally on ABC/ESPN, FOX and Univision platforms. Conference semifinals begin Nov. 29.